The disturbing success of Ovia, an application that is of interest to employers in the United States

Rare are the bosses who know the date of the last menstrual period of their employees, want or can do statistics on their weight, their mood or their time of sl

The disturbing success of Ovia, an application that is of interest to employers in the United States

Rare are the bosses who know the date of the last menstrual period of their employees, want or can do statistics on their weight, their mood or their time of sleep... in The United States, all of this is helped by Ovia Health. The start-up commercializes the data of users of its application of women's health with numerous actors, including the employers ' own users, after a long investigation by the Washington Post. In a country where the health benefits are extremely expensive and are mainly provided by employers and private insurance, the medical monitoring of patients allows for a cost reduction considerable. As an indication, a pregnancy costs nearly $ 10,000 on average in the United States. The price can very quickly mount up in the event of a complication.

on The side of the employees, many willing to fill in their data on Ovia Health and share it to their employers because they have the impression to ensure their health or the health of their baby. "Maybe I'm naive, but I saw this as a positive reinforcement: [my employers] are trying to help me take care of myself," says Diana Diller, user assiduous application, and is used in the video game publisher Activision Blizzard. Her employer had encouraged her to register on the paid app by offering gift certificates for a dollar a day. Ovia would have also allowed Activision Blizzard to save approximately $ 1,200 per employee annual medical cost, by monitoring almost fifty women.

and Blessed is the fruit

Created in 2012, Ovia Health was initially positioned as a simple start-up of the femtech, a market that offers women's technology solutions to better manage their health and which is expected to reach a value of $ 50 billion by 2025. Where other apps like Clue or Glow follows the rules, Ovia Health specializes in pregnancy. It allows, for example, to compare the size of the baby to be born to a fruit, gives advice fertility, encouraging on a background of pastel, detailed information on the cycle or warns of the risk of complications. Ovia attributes a 30% reduction of premature birth, increase natural conception by 30% and early detection of signs of post-partum depression.

To operate, the app requires an enormous number of information on pregnant women, or those wishing to be: details on their sleep, their diet, their mood, their weight, their sex or the color of their liquid cervical. After the birth, she asked about the baby's name, sex, weight, time of work, of the presence or not of epidural, c-section or bleeding of the seat... If the women have a miscarriage, the application suggests to detail the date, type of loss, and above all, gives the possibility to reset their account to starting to consider a new pregnancy. To read the very long terms of use, these data are transferred to Ovia by the user "irrevocably". Ovia Health, therefore, has the right to sell, and it does it without limit.

33 hours of productivity in the least

With several million users, the application can be pruned already a nice success in the world of targeted advertising. But she very quickly interested insurers and the human resources services of companies, who have proposed to Ovia to buy its database. The number of contracts with companies known for growth to three digits, provides the chairman of Ovia Health, Paris Wallace. These contracts would cover 10 million users. For businesses, there is much to be gained in this service. Ovia suggests to employees in the good times to conceive, and prevents businesses and insurance to pay for treatment for infertility and manage schedules complicated. Not to mention that this time spent hoping for a baby leads to the "33 hours of productivity with less", underlines Ovia.

For the women on the other hand, this model is particularly intrusive. "As a researcher and a clinician, I can see the benefit of analyzing large sets of data," explains Paula M. Castaño, an obstetrician and gynecologist and an associate professor at Columbia University, who has studied the applications of tracking menstrual periods. But a large part of the data collected by Ovia are directed toward the employer rather than to the research and, therefore, have a "lack of clinical applicability general" related to "their focus on variables that affect the amount of time spent at work and the use of insurance." The confidentiality of the applications of FemTech is otherwise subject to concerns: Glow-had been pinned up in 2016 for of the flaws of privacy to know many intimate details about users. Flo would, for its part, allowed Facebook to know when a user wished to conceive or were pregnant.

The data are expected to be aggregated and de-identified, but several experts point that it is very easy to cross-reference the information and identify the users of Ovia. "The fact that the pregnancy of women to be monitored by employers is very disturbing," worries dr. Deborah C. Peel, a psychiatrist and founder of Patient Privacy Rights, an association for the defence of the right to privacy of the patients. There is so much discrimination against mothers and families at work, we can't trust them to ensure their best interest".

Updated Date: 14 April 2019, 00:00

Kathleen Lees


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